North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper unveiled a new plan on Wednesday, May 19, that would set up massive renovations at three of the state’s speedways. The plan would send $10 million each to North Wilkesboro Speedway, Charlotte Motor Speedway, and The Rock, which used to be Rockingham Speedway.
The proposal is part of Cooper’s recommendation on how to use $5.7 billion that the state will receive from the American Rescue Plan. Another $5 million would go to The Department of Natural and Cultural Resources in order to develop, connect, and market new and existing natural and cultural tourism trails. The plan would include a Motorsports and Moonshine Heritage Trail, a nod to NASCAR‘s history.
Of course, the North Carolina legislature must approve Cooper’s recommendations before the funds can go to work. “This pandemic brought us a once-in-a-generation challenge, and these funds have brought us a once-in-a-generation opportunity. Let’s use them to make a transformational change for our state,” Cooper said on Wednesday, per NBC Sports.
Cooper Unveiled Significant Changes in Wednesday’s Proposal
Wednesday’s proposal outlined how Cooper would use the money. The investments into the tracks would include pedestrian walkway enhancements, speedway repaving, bathroom fixtures and maintenance, grandstand repair, and erosion control among other needs. The proposal also said that the county governments would partner with the venues to fund the infrastructure work.
“We’re very pleased to see Governor Cooper’s support of motorsports and statewide tourism in his new budget,” said Speedway Motorsports President and CEO Marcus Smith in a statement, per NBC Sports. “Motorsports is a significant part of not only North Carolina’s past but also its future to create jobs and grow tourism.
“The proposed allocations from the American Rescue Plan can have a significant impact on renovating parts of Charlotte Motor Speedway as well as starting restoration efforts at North Wilkesboro. Our team at Speedway Motorsports will get to work on the best ways these funds could be utilized and we’ll watch closely as the proposals continue through the legislative session.”
All Three Speedways Played Important Roles in NASCAR’s History
Charlotte Motor Speedway is an iconic track that hosts multiple Cup Series races each year. The drivers take part in the Coca-Cola 600 every Memorial Day Weekend, honoring military members that lost their lives in the line of duty. The Cup Series drivers then return to Charlotte later in the season for a trip around the Roval.
North Wilkesboro Speedway, on the other hand, hosted NASCAR races from 1946 until 1996. Despite NASCAR’s departure after Jeff Gordon won the final Cup race, the track still served as the home of motorsports until 2011. The track has remained unused ever since, but Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Smith partnered together in 2019 to clear the surface of debris and weeds. This work paved the way for iRacing to scan the track and make it available for virtual races.
Rockingham Speedway has not hosted a Cup Series race since Matt Kenseth’s win in 2004. The one-mile oval hosted Truck Series races in 2012 and 2013. It also served as the site for multiple film projects, a list that includes “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” and “3: The Dale Earnhardt Story.”
With the proposed renovations, there are now questions about whether NASCAR could return to North Wilkesboro and The Rock in the future. Racing’s sanctioning body is already sending its top three series back to Nashville Superspeedway after many years away, and the two speedways could be next on the list. Though NASCAR will not make a decision until the North Carolina legislature votes to approve the proposal.